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“The Atlas of Love” by Laurie Frankel

The Atlas of Love by Laurie Frankel is perhaps the deepest chick-lit book I have ever read.

I’m not even sure it is fair to classify it as “chick lit”, although my husband is definitely not the target audience. That didn’t stop him from laughing when I read an excerpt from page 102 to him that starts with the lines “The first thing that went wrong was Katie got sick. She is one of those people,” and goes on to hysterically describe every real or imagined ailment I have ever suffered from, with the exception of amoebas.  Frankel does comic realism very well.

The basic plot of the book is that grad student Jill gets pregnant, and her friends Janey and Katie move in with her to help raise baby Atlas. All three are English Ph.D. candidates at a fictional school in Seattle.

Excuse me if I nerd out on you, but I can’t help but wonder if this entire book has a deeper meaning.

Frankel mentions every famous Western author you can imagine with the exception of one; Ayn Rand is the elephant in the room. Rand’s Objectivist philosophy is hinted at, with the very naming of baby Atlas. Throw in the concept of four people sharing one kid, and you remind me of Ayn Rand, Frank O’Connor, Barbra Branden and Nathaniel Branden’s unusual arrangements concerning adult intimacy.

The character of Jill is about as selfish as you can get. Ayn Rand would have loved her. But Jill also proves the fatal flaw of Objectivism. How can you be a good parent without self-sacrifice? You can’t!

Katie on the other hand, is the spiritual soul of the novel. Katie stands for everything Ayn Rand would hate. A fifth generation LDS member, (and a Victorianist!), she believes in bigger things. Katie is willing to give her time and energy because it is in her very spirit to do so. Frankel gets a lot of laughs by poking fun at Katie’s earnestness, but it is done so lovingly.

The narrator of the whole book is Janey, who (like Rand), is Jewish. Janey is arguably the best parent in the book. She sacrifices herself for Atlas because she wants to. Which of course leads to the question, if you want to sacrifice yourself for a child, does the very act of sacrificing become selfish?

Dang nab it Ayn Rand! I hate you and yet you continue to mess with my mind. If only I could shrug you off.  I would rather read a book by Laurie Frankel any day of the week.

(This post is from my 2012 Salute to Pacific Northwest Writers.)

1 Comment

  1. Jean Leek Ping says:

    I must read this book! Too bad my library doesn’t own it…

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